Reflections of a seasonal vegetarian

- Ardelle T. Merton () - February 28, 2008 - 12:00am

Lent began with Ash Wednesday last February 6, and what a coincidence this 2008 that it was also the eve of Chinese New Year. In the Philippines, with its prominent Chinese community, it is to the credit of the Catholic Church that in respecting the Chinese Catholic community culture, the Filipino-Chinese Catholics were exempted from the Ash Wednesday abstinence and fasting, so long as they make up for it in acts of penance later in the season.

For carnivorous merrymakers such as myself, the exemption came as a pleasant surprise. Ah, what opportunists we can be! But as though heaven intervened, I found myself forced to go vegetarian that day, when I attended Chinese New Year festivities at a Buddhist temple that served strictly vegetarian food. I suppose personal sacrifice is a basic principal shared by various religions, after all.

The vegetarian meals that evening were actually delicious. Imagine crispy Shanghai rolls and seasoned bihon made from soy and vegetables. It was also amazing how light I felt afterwards. Usually after a full meal of lechon and dinuguan, I feel exactly like a pig, but after a healthy veggie meal, I hardly felt like a vegetable. I felt active, alive and energetic. I figured my tastebuds were the only ones at loss. So, sacrifice does have its returns.

I remember last year when a friend called me up a second after Black Saturday midnight, exclaiming, “It’s midnight, we can eat meat!” I roared with laughter, realizing he had counted the seconds till he could finally eat hamburgers again for the succeeding Fridays. Now that’s discipline!

Many people have gone vegetarian because they pity the animals killed for human consumption. This Lent’s going to be a breeze for them (or will they have to think of another sacrifice?).

This year, I’ve resolved to be firm with my own sacrifice and discipline. Now that I’m an adult, I can fully comprehend the reasons behind abstinence. No excuses. Jesus made the greatest sacrifice of all, when He died for us on the cross. As homage and respect to the Lord, perhaps this is the least I could do in return: To follow the rules this time, and reflect on life’s blessings while the world is solemn and quiet for a holy week. My reflection this far into Lent: I am thankful that I have food to eat – whether meat or vegetables – so that I don’t have to go hungry. Too often we’re bitter over what we don’t have that we overlook the blessings that we do have.

Don’t fret, I’m not being puritanical here; I’m not going to push the vegetarian thing to others or judge someone for eating meat on Lenten Fridays. Sacrifices, as well as beliefs, are deeply personal. They should come from the heart, and not from someone else’s nagging. I’m not even going to ask you to join me, but I do ask that you at least to take a moment to be mindful of your food, to appreciate where it comes from and be grateful for the energy and the life given that allows you to sustain yours.

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